Several years ago, I submitted this piece to a teacher magazine at my place of work for their "End of the Day" column. "End of the Day" usually featured mawkish, sentimental stories about how a teacher had changed a child's life for the better. Several consecutive issues ran stories for "End of the Day" that were about how troubled children had made a dramatic turnaround. At their best, they were heartwarming. At their worst, they made one slightly apprehensive that the children described were still at large in society. I packaged up the following story with the requisite SASE and delivered it, via mail, to the executive editor at the time. She was taken with the unusual nature of the tale, and passed it on to the then Editor-in-Chief. After much debate it was deemed unsuitable for publication due to the violence in the story. "It doesn't send the right message," the Editor-in-Chief said. "Some teachers might even find this slightly...offensive?" The real perpetrator was later revealed, causing my coworkers to mistrust me to this very day.
You be the judge of poor Mooky! Discovering this in the files has led me to the belief that a life without pranks is a life wasted.
A SPECIAL CHILD
By Henrietta Figglesworth
During my first year of teaching, there was one special child who touched my heart and helped me to remember why I chose this noble profession. His name was Mooky.
Mooky was an unusually gifted child. He constantly astounded me and his classmates with his thoughtful responses, his wisecracking, and his artistic skills. Although Mooky was born without a nose and any predisposition for social skills, he did not let it get him down. He often lashed out uncontrollably, sometimes spearing other children with the scissors or filling students’ mouths with glue. Occasionally, Mooky would go into the corner and gnaw on his own arm. More often, however, he would viciously bite other children on the nose. I knew why—Mooky felt himself to be different, and he wanted the other kids to be just like him: noseless. His rather unconventional habits did nothing to mar the image of the bright, beautiful child that I, as his teacher, saw.
The other children were often cruel, and made fun of Mooky. “How would you like it if you were born without a nose?” I admonished them. “You’d probably bite people, too!” I had trouble keeping my temper in check, but Mooky’s sunny countenence never dimmed. One day, however, I saw him sitting alone outside the classroom. I went up and sat with him. Mooky looked up at me with tear-filled eyes. “I’m a biter, aren’t I?” he asked. “Yes, Mooky,” I said gently. “But we’re all special in our own special ways.”
Since Mooky was unable to smell, he had a great deal of pent-up rage at others who had that gift. I sometimes saw him in the school garden, trying vainly to shove daisies up the nostrils of other children. “Smell this!” he screamed, spittle flying from his lips. I knew that Mooky was troubled, but he was my special angel. A child like no other.
I recommended to Mooky’s parents that they purchase him a prosthetic nose. At first skeptical, they eventually had a plastic nose fashioned for their son. I remember well the day that Mooky walked into my classroom, proudly thrusting forth the prosthesis. “My very own nose!” he said. “Mooky, it’s lovely. Would you like to study some new vocabulary?” I offered. Mooky nodded his head joyfully. Then the nose fell off and was crushed under the foot of another student. That day, several children were beaten and brutalized under the force of Mooky’s fury.
Mooky was different. But it’s the different, special children who remind us why we teach. No, you don’t have to have a nose to be special—just a great deal of heart. Mooky had heart, and he touched mine.